By now, the news of the viral email linked to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity has spread through both campus and national media. Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson sent an email to the USC community condemning the email, and female-oriented sites such as Jezebel have decried the misogynistic viewpoints expressed.
Officials have said the email did not originate from the USC chapter of Kappa Sigma, but it still reflects poorly on the fraternities, Greek life and, quite frankly, the male population at USC.
But we might be examining the problem from the wrong angle.
Finger-pointers seem to use the chauvinistic “frat boy” characterizations as an easy excuse for why such an email was allowed to spread.
The blame has been focused on males and the Greek system instead of addressing the larger underlying issue: sorority girl stereotypes.
Amid the email’s unsavory descriptions of girls as “targets” who are “not real people,” is the disparaging term “sorostitute.”
A combination of the words “sorority girl” and “prostitute,” this word embodies how many people perceive sorority girls: as slutty, empty-headed and disrespectable.
Although there isn’t a pervasive misogynistic culture at USC, there are a shocking number of commonly accepted stereotypes of sorority girls.
Though the email prompted outrage and condemnation from the USC community and beyond, people accept the day-to-day belittling of sorority girls without second thought.
Media portrayals of sorority girls — think Reese Witherspoon’s performance in Legally Blonde — only perpetuate the belief that all sorority girls are blond, drunk, vacuously stupid and likely to spend each night with a random male.
I am far from a blazing feminist, but as a sorority girl myself, I can attest that not only are these beliefs false and offensive, but also that more people than will admit hold these damaging stereotypes.
Since joining Sigma Phi Omega, an Asian-interest social sorority at USC, I have noticed how people change their demeanor the moment I mention my involvement with a sorority.
I suddenly become someone immoral who buys her friends, is probably just here to get married and takes facile courses.
Not only are non-Greek students less likely to take sorority girls seriously, but even professors and teaching assistants sometimes make the same assumptions.
A bitingly intelligent friend who frequently sported Pi Phi gear was asked by her TA last semester if she took school seriously or was just here to party.
Not all sorority girls are promiscuous alcoholics who smoke, do drugs and crash seven different parties every weekend. Personally, I don’t drink and don’t participate in any of the other activities mentioned, and I know many Greek-affiliated girls who also choose not to.
Of course, as with many stereotypes, some do conform more or less to the popularly conceptualized “sorority girl.”
But most of us are not the air-headed, graceless women we are unfairly assumed to be.
In fact, last year and for many years, the average GPA of the Panhellenic Council has been higher than both the all-university and all-women’s average at USC. In 2010, the Panhellenic average was 3.41, compared to the all-women’s average of 3.34 and the all-university average of 3.27.
Many sorority girls are motivated and talented young women who lead our generation in philanthropy, development of leadership capabilities and high standards of scholarship and self-respect.
Those who believe otherwise after simply a cursory glance at whichever Greek letters we proudly display are as small-minded and obtuse as the “sorostitute” of their imagination.
Rebecca Gao is a freshman majoring in global health and biological sciences. Her column, “Trojan Grounds,” runs Mondays.